Guide to Building a Rockery

When landscaping a large area, constructing a stonework rockery can be a good way of filling in space cost effectively, whilst providing plenty of colour and interest too. Here's a guide to creating a rockery.  

What stonework to choose

When it comes to choosing suitable stonework to build your rockery, local stone will always look most natural in your landscape. Stone should always be obtained from a local supplier. Don't just go out into the countryside and collect stones, rocks and pebbles; you could be destroying valuable local wildlife habitat.

Building the rockery

Before setting your stonework in place, remove any weeds from the site. Weeds can spoil your rockery by invading the soil around the stones and destabilising the ground so that it runs the risk of being washed away at the first sign of heavy rainfall.

Next, place a layer of rubble down to form a foundation for the main rockery and improve the drainage. This is very important to prevent the rockery from subsiding during heavy rains. Start laying the biggest rocks so that they gradually build to form a sort of mountain peak. You should keep the rocks facing in lots of different directions to create plenty of different micro-climates that will suit different types of plants.

Stabilise the large rocks with smaller ones and set the whole thing with a layer of topsoil. Use topsoil from a garden centre supplier that won't contain weeds. Continue layering small stones with topsoil until you have achieved the final shape of the rockery that you want. Create planting pockets with small stones and compost as you go.

Planting the rockery

When choosing plants for your rockery, select species that suit the different aspects of the artificial mountain range you have created. For example, the rock faces that have a southerly aspect will probably suit plant species that enjoy full sun for much of the day.

To attract beneficial insects to your garden, choose plants that provide shelter and food.

The best time to plant your rockery is during the spring so that the plants have chance to settle and become established before the winter arrives. Remove each plant from its container, tease out the roots, and set the plants into the planting pockets that you have prepared. Throw a handful of gravel over the soil surrounding the plants to keep weed growth down and to help provide good drainage.